design process

I really enjoyed the emphasis we placed on narrative throughout the data mural design process; I think Colin Ware is correct when he says the purpose of a visualization should be to “capture the cognitive thread of the audience” (12).  Our mural does so by combining simple visual language (people receiving food; trucks carrying food), which conveys concrete ideas best explained through pictures, with the more complicated language of metaphor.  Some ideas are hard to illustrate from first principles but easily explained using figurative language; the tree metaphor we use, with suppliers at the roots and Food For Free trucks delivering food to people at the tree’s leaves, uses a universal visual symbol (the tree) to explain Food For Free’s business model.  As with regular language, the grammar of visual metaphor is generative-we can combine it with other units of meaning to make a larger, still meaningful structure. As in the example on p. 7, we combine spatial logic (food moving from roots to leaves) with visual logic (the roots and leaves are linked by the roads the trucks travel) to explain how the food is transported from suppliers to those who need it.  We are using a single-frame narrative for our mural, with the result that we, the authors, are responsible for indicating a narrative thread within the finished product as we would not need to do with a film, slideshow, or comic strip.  However, we also have the freedom to include elements outside a single narrative without creating subsequent frames; we can add framing elements to fill in details of the story so the reader can explore the mural on their own terms once they have familiarized themselves with its overall arc, as Segel and Heer suggest.  Overall, our mural incorporates many elements of good visual design and, I hope, will be able to capture people’s attention and understanding.

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